A Shanghai resident surnamed Zhao operates an online store on Taobao that she registered under her mother's name several years ago. After her mother died last year, Zhao decided to transfer the ownership of the store to her father. Taobao, an e-commerce platform owned by Alibaba, requires her to notarize her statement that she has given up her share in the online store before making her father its sole owner. But the office of notary public in Shanghai refused to notarize her statement because her online property is virtual, not real. Yanzhao Metropolis Daily comments:
The notary public office in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, where Alibaba is headquartered, however, has agreed to notarize Zhao's statement without differentiating between virtual property and other kinds of property.
Apparently, the notary public offices across the country don't have a unified rule for websites, domains, e-commerce and online stores.
The judicial authorities should issue detailed explanations about the laws related to cyberspace so that not only notary public offices but also public security departments adapt to the changes brought about by the internet in social and legal fields, and attach due value to online property in cases of inheritance, transfer and theft.
It is equally important that lawmakers define the meaning of online property and treat it accordingly.
Until that is done, the legal procedures for transferring and inheriting online properties will remain complicated, as Zhao's case shows, and hinder the development of internet-related sectors such as e-commerce.
Online properties deserves the same legal status that tangible properties get, because it takes only a few clicks of the mouse to transform "virtual" property into real wealth.
The General Rules of the Civil Law says judicial departments should abide by the law when it comes to the protection of digital and network virtual property. In other words, the protection of people's online property is recognized by the law as civil rights, even though there is no specific law on it.